Trait emotional intelligence in Bulgarian family relationships

Antonina Kardasheva

Demographic features of Bulgaria

Bulgaria occupies a portion of the eastern Balkan peninsula, bordering five countries: Greece and Turkey to the south, Macedonia and Serbia to the west, and Romania to the north. The land borders have a total length of 1,808 kilometers (1,123 miles), and the coastline has a length of 354 kilometers (220 miles). Its total area of 110,994 square kilometers (42,855 square miles) ranks it as the world’s 105th-largest country. The most notable topographical features are the Danubian Plain, the Balkan Mountains, the Thracian Plain, and the Rila-Rhodope massif. The southern edge of the Danubian Plain slopes upward into the foothills of the Balkans, while the Danube defines the border with Romania. The Thracian Plain is roughly triangular, beginning southeast of Sofia and broadening as it reaches the Black Sea coast.

The population of Bulgaria descends from peoples with different origins and numbers. Most Bulgarians live in Bulgaria, where they number around 6 million, constituting 85 percent of the population. There are significant Bulgarian minorities in Serbia, Turkey, Albania, Romania (Banat Bulgarians), as well as in Ukraine and Moldova (Bessarabian Bulgarians).

The population of Bulgaria is 7,360,000 people according to the 2011 national census. The majority of the population, 72.5 percent, reside in urban areas. As of 2017, Sofia is the most populated urban center with 1,330,000 people, followed by Plovdiv (345,000), Varna (344,000), Burgas (209,000), and Ruse (160,000).


When some individuals become parents, they may discover that they face imbalances between their personal, marital, and career roles in the context of their new roles as parents. Managing these imbalances is an emotional process that requires a large degree of adaptation to the new conditions in the family. Prospective parents may explore their own subjective perceptions of their experiences as children and their own emotions in their family of origin to assess whether they want to adopt a strategy that is different from the approaches of their own parents. The new child in the family system can impact the relationships between spouses and may place new financial strains or other stresses on the family. These conditions can evoke various emotional challenges for the evolving family.

A period of building and expanding parental behavior begins with the birth of each subsequent child. Such behaviors can be subjectively defined and unique in nature as parents can differ significantly in their perception of the newborn’s needs. Two general types of parental-child interactions that were originally identified by Berne (1961) and extended by others are: synchronous - when parents quickly notice the changes of their children’s mood and emotions and react according to their needs, and asynchronous - when parents are not capable of noticing and responding to the dynamics of their children’s emotional life. Synchronous may lead to a child’s experiences of trust and security whereas, asynchronous relationships would cause mistrust between parents and their children. These styles align with current models of attachment (Cassidy & Shaver, 2008) and the notion of emotional attunement (Schore, 1994), both of which are important parenting factors in optimal child development.

As a social system, family is a combination of subsystems defined in terms of generations, gender, and role. Birth order has also been an important factor in understanding family structure and its contributions to child development (Rohrer, Egloff, & Schmukle, 2015). The family is the group where the child grows up and develops attitudes to self and other people, develops opportunities to learn the boundaries of interpersonal relations and receives emotional messages from among family members. The family is an institution of primary socialization and emotional learning (Thompson, 2014) as well as a social environment that prepares children to function in a larger society. In the collectivistic frame of Bulgarian culture the family system holds particular importance. Brown, Manning, and Stykes (2015) studied the variations from the standard family structure - referred to as family complexity - and found relationships to child well-being. Emotional traits in the family system are therefore of important significance for individuals’ optimal functioning. El traits are developed by family systems and in turn can influence family relationships.

The present study examines the assumption that Trait El (see Chapter 1, this volume) is related to the emotional life of Bulgarian families based on several family structural factors. The influence of El on family is a new topic for research and practice in Bulgaria. This study aims to explore and develop new directions for discussion around Trait El and family systems.

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